Baghdad (Iraq), Mar.2 (ANI): The general who has spearheaded Britain's two longest and most controversial wars of the past 60 years, claimed today that the army will leave Iraq with al-Qaida largely defeated and the roots of democracy firmly planted.
Lieutenant-General John Cooper, who stands down tomorrow as deputy commanding general in Iraq and also retires from the army after more than 30 years, said Basra, which the British will leave by early summer, is back on its feet and buttressed from any militia resurgence.
Lt. Gen. Cooper believes January's nationwide provincial elections were a turning point and said Iraq would be handed over in better shape than when Britain invaded six years ago.
"We have got democracy rooted here," Cooper said in his final interview before leaving Iraq. "Clearly there is a long way to go to develop things. The provincial elections show that Iraqis have an appetite for it. They were free fair and credible and that reflects a desire for change."
Cooper was second in command only to US generals David Petraeus and Raymond Odierno. All three were responsible for the 150,000 coalition troops in Iraq.
His upbeat assessment comes weeks before the final tranche of British troops begins to withdraw from Iraq and is bound to renew controversy over the role Britain played in the invasion and its aftermath.
Tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been killed during the insurgency. The number of British soldiers killed stands at 179, hundreds more have been maimed.
The infrastructure of the country has, in places, been decimated. (ANI)